T1D in the Wild: When Type 1 Isn’t #1

1/22/19
WRITTEN BY: Alexi Melvin
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I have a confession.

There have been times in my life that I have let my T1D slide onto to the back burner, so to speak. I want to talk about why this isn’t always a bad thing.

I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that I have ever intentionally been neglectful or dismissive of my diabetes management. That has never been a “thing” for me. But I have experienced other health considerations, traumatic life events and issues that essentially drain your time and energy. Haven’t we all?

The thing that I have come to realize, though, is that sometimes, when my mind has not been laser-focused on T1D, my management has actually improved.

Of course this is not always the case. There have been times when I have gotten the flu or some other illness that has sent my blood sugar levels out of whack and made things incredibly difficult. But, on a case-by-case basis, I have experienced a lot of relief surrounding T1D stress and anxieties when there has been something “else” in the mix that takes precedence.

Type 1 on the back burner

Having Type 1 diabetes involves constant analysis. With the abundance of resources and technology available to us today, we sometimes take for granted how much freedom we have to experiment and examine our limits.

I have:

  • Lived in Manhattan during hurricane Irene and Sandy (Major power outages, limited transportation, sparse grocery availability)
  • Been with family members toward the ends of their lives (Immense grief, pain and confusion)
  • Had a raging and prolonged case of tummy trouble while in France and Italy (Language barriers, inadequate low-carb options, nausea + trouble keeping food down)

And these are merely some highlights. But each of these instances have tested my control — or perhaps my ability to adapt and respond to a certain lack of control. When in “crisis mode,” we are brought back to basics. Do I feel low? Have I eaten lately? Do I need a correction? What is the healthiest food option that is easily available to me right now?

Having an autoimmune disease of any kind can make us feel like we have no control over our bodies, which, in turn, makes us strive to control it even more. Without the pressure of this disease hovering over us, we leave room for our bodies to find their “flow” a little more easily. In reality, it is often us who are hovering over our disease.

Sometimes allowing for some space from our diabetes can lead to our bodies leveling themselves out in various ways (blood sugar, insulin resistance, hormonal fluctuations, etc.) – when we aren’t even looking.

Hormones + T1D

Given the extremity of the previous scenarios, this example may seem a little silly. But, if you have experienced hormonal acne, you might relate to how debilitating it can feel. Not unlike Type 1, dealing with a consistent and seemingly unending outbreak of unsightly junk on your face feels like you’ve lost all say-so in your inner workings. Just when you think you’ve tamed one giant cystic spot, three more pop up to say hi.

Also — not unlike Type 1 — there are “okay” days, and there are horrible days. With acne, you wake up on those bad days and feel like a malfunctioning failure and look like the creature from the black lagoon. My skin issues come from an on-again-off-again duel with polycystic ovarian syndrome and as we all know, the combination of hormones and T1D are always unpredictable. I can admit that during times where I have been dealing with heavy acne, I have unintentionally put it in the forefront of my mind, while T1D takes a backseat.

At least with T1D, there is something of a formula to fall back on. We get these formulas from our endocrinologists. If you eat this many carbs, you take this much insulin. If your blood sugar drops this much, you should eat this much. I would never claim these formulas to be foolproof, but they’re close enough. Not black and white by any means… (but maybe a little brownish grey?)

Raging skin issues truly have no black and white remedy. It is a painstakingly long trial and error process, and even when you do find the right combination of medication and/or topicals, it takes months to heal. But, during this second round of boxing with myself + acne, at some point, I stopped for a moment and realized that my blood sugar levels had never been so steady, and my A1C had lowered significantly. I had let my T1D “breathe” for a while.

Another realization that came from this: maybe I should do the same for my skin. Agonizing over it and overloading it with all kinds of conflicting remedies was doing more harm than good.

Balance

As people living with Type 1 diabetes, we deal with a lot. And we will always deal with a lot. However, stress, worry and hyper-analysis of any health issue or trauma will only exacerbate the situation. What we need to do is find a balance of our energy that allows us to take the pressure off of how things “should” be. If we allow ourselves to shine through any perception of “bad” that we’ve placed upon ourselves, our bodies will thrive, and with (less) tireless efforts on our parts.

 

 

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Alexi Melvin

Alexi Melvin is a writer, artist and actress in the Bay Area. She also serves as a member of the Beyond Type 1 Leadership Council. Alexi studied at the New School University in Manhattan as well as the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. She has written for multiple publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle and has been a regular contributor for Beyond Type 1 for many years. You can also hear her voice in two Star Wars films. She has been a loyal advocate for Type 1 diabetes awareness, education and fundraising since she was diagnosed in 2003. She hopes to continue to empower and be a voice for those who choose to embrace Type 1 diabetes as a part of their lives, but at the same time, do not allow it to define them. Instagram: @alexienergyart Twitter: @aleximelvin